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Caspian – “Waking Season” Review

After being sorely disappointed by This Will Destroy You’s latest release, “Tunnel Blanket”, I have been waiting for a post-rock album that would really wow me. Thus, I have been eagerly anticipating this album by one of my favorite bands. “Waking Season” is the fourth album by Caspian, a post-rock outfit from Massachusetts whose first release, “You Are the Conductor”, still sits high on my list of favorite albums (check out the combo of Further Up/Further In for pure post-rock bliss). How does this album stack up against their previous works, and more importantly, against other albums released this year?

Well, let’s take a look at the individual pieces that make up this 10-track LP. The album begins with the title track, which is a straightforward crescendo. I would almost have to say that it is too straightforward, revolving mainly on two chords. At a few points it seemed that it would shift away, but I still found myself in this simple progression. Further, the drum parts are overly simple, and when they change/build, don’t really progress the song in any way. Yet, the melody is good and the overall feel of the song is a good way to set the tone for the rest of the album experience. This title track then snaps seamlessly into the unstable “Procellous”. Here, you are thrust into what can be described as cohesive instability, a song that feels like it can explode at anytime, yet always feels like it is progressing to a set destination. At many points during the song, you feel torn in different directions by the differing rhythms and melody lines fighting between the instruments. This may sound like a bad thing, however, Caspian brings everything together wonderfully to produce a very powerful track. This is closely followed by “Gone in Bloom and Bough”, a much calmer (though it still hits hard at the closing) and melodic piece that nicely complements the previous track.

Fourth, we hit what I feel is the highlight of the album, “Halls of the Summer“. I cannot describe this song as anything but pure musical genius. The song begins with an industrial type background behind a piano melody. This piano melody builds and morphs into another beautiful melody before the section drops to reveal a strumming guitar. What follows is a short section of a melody similar to the piano part, but now guitar-centered. A distorted guitar enters along with the original piano melody to create an aura of sound that you really must experience to understand the nature of this song. Truly amazing!

How I envision myself listening to “Halls of the Summer”

Continuing on, “Akiko”breaks up the album midpoint, entering with a calm mix of clean guitar and harmonics. Though the track is short (3 minutes 33 seconds), there is enough movement to make it seem longer. As the first melody and mid-section pass, we are left with a fragile, awe-inspiring dual-guitar harmony (specifically at 2:21) that feels like it would fall apart next to such strong tracks as “Procellous”, or later “Fire Made Flesh”. Very rarely have I ever heard a harmony this perfect (seriously, it’s damn good).

Beginning the second half of the album is a two-track section starting with “High Lonesome”, an ambient intro track where Caspian channels their inner Sigur Rós. “High Lonesome” floats right into “Hickory ’54”, which opens with a modulated, trance-inducing intro. Here, though I feel a flaw in this album is further exposed. At a few points, mainly here and “Waking Season”, I found myself longing for a little more complexity in the rhythm section. The melodies in both tracks are so simple, that a more complex rhythm could really flesh the sound out. I am by no means adverse to simple drum tracks, as the following track (“Long Desert Mile”) is well put together with a simple drum progression, but these tracks just feel too plain without that extra boost from the rhythm section.

Having mentioned the eighth track,  “Long Desert Mile” is another straightforward song. As mentioned though, the song has some of that complexity that a track like “Waking Season” is missing. After this, we enter the final movement of the album consisting of another two-track piece. “Collider in Blue” is another ambient intro (like “High Lonesome”) that leads us into the final piece, “Fire Made Flesh”. This eerie track just has a perfect feel to round out the album. The haunting melody at the start slowly progresses like a slow burn before dropping out to allow a nice drum/bass groove to enter (where was this rhythmic complexity in “Hickory ’54”?). This evolves into a full assault on the ears, complete with thundering bass, pounding drums, and heavily distorted guitar, all brought together under a haunting ambient melody, that leaves the listener breathless as the album comes to a close.

All in all, this album is exceptional in its overall composition, and ability to weave in such delicate parts (“Akiko”) with well-planned sonic assaults (“Fire Made Flesh”). For its flaws, including the lack of rhythmic complexity in some areas, and melodies that don’t seem to progress at times, Caspian has done so much right and produced another excellent post-rock album. “Waking Season” has earned its spot as my favorite album of the year so far, yet cannot surpass the sheer brilliance that was achieved on “You Are the Conductor”. If you enjoy post-rock or instrumental music, you will not be the least bit disappointed by this album.

Final Score – 9.2/10

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